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WKU meteorology student wins regional weather forecast competition

WKU meteorology student Mitchell Gaines of Versailles finished first overall in a regional weather forecast competition hosted by the University of Georgia.

Gaines was one of four students in Dr. Josh Durkee’s Synoptic Meteorology class to finish in the top 10 of the forecast competition that included 96 students from WKU, University of Georgia, Northern Illinois University, and Mississippi State University.

WKU student Lee Campbell of Paducah finished first in the precipitation category.

For the fall semester, the forecast cities included Atlanta; Brownsville, Texas; Glasgow, Mont.; Allentown, Pa.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Muskegon, Mich. The goal of the competition is to help students sharpen their forecasting skills even further than is possible in a regular class environment.

Synoptic Meteorology is aimed at helping students understand the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of the day-to-day evolution of Earth’s atmosphere. Part of the requirements for the class involved the students’ application of their understanding of Synoptic Meteorology in a forecast setting.  Here the students provide routine daily weather forecasts for a select group of cities from around the U.S. throughout the semester. The students take turns beginning each class meeting with a thorough diagnostic discussion of current weather events. After that, the students provide a comparative analysis of numerical weather model prediction output (that they have learned to generate) that boils down to a final forecast for high and low temperatures, precipitation, and winds for the next day.

WKU students finished in the top 10 of the following categories:

  • Overall: Mitchell Gaines of Versailles, first; Dustin Jordan of Seymour, Tenn., fourth; Kyle Berry of Mt. Washington, fifth; Andrew McKaughan of Tampa, Fla., eighth.
  • Temperature: Mitchell Gaines, second; Dustin Jordan, third; Andrew McKaughan, fourth, Kyle Berry, seventh.
  • Precipitation: Lee Campbell of Paducah, first; Mitchell Gaines, third; Dustin Jordan, sixth; Nathaniel Shearer of Berea, 10th.

“A number of students in the B.S. Meteorology program seek employment as professional forecasters,” Dr. Durkee said. “These types of applied learning exercises offer these students unique and excellent opportunities that can be quite advantageous toward their careers.”

“The success of meteorology students in this contest, which puts them in competition with students from highly ranked programs around the country, speaks volumes about the quality of instruction and student engagement at WKU,” Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling said.

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777.

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